Fourteen-year-old Sarah DeSouza was standing in the toe-numbing cold outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn with the hope of seeing the visiting royals when she spotted some uniformed cops approach, shouldering rolls of material.
“They’re bringing the red carpet out!” she exclaimed.
But the rolls proved to be orange crowd-control barriers to be deployed if protesters sought to disrupt the visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to a Nets basketball game.
Not that the demonstration had anything to do with this couple, whom Sarah seems to see as a fairy tale come to life. The 100 or so protesters outside the arena were waving signs and chanting in continuing protests of a Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the “chokehold death” of Eric Garner.
The tumult was such that young Sarah had cause to worry that she might not get even a glimpse of Will and Kate. She exhibited the moxie of a true Brooklyn kid as she went up to a traffic-control officer and quietly asked if he could tell her where the royal limo would be arriving.
The traffic agent was kind enough to direct Sarah discreetly to a closed-off street running behind the arena. Sarah stood by the police barricade with her 12-year-old sister, Mary, and their mother, Rada. Sarah said that she loves, loves, loves the royal couple and had even gotten up before dawn to watch their 2011 wedding.
Sarah had since gathered any memorabilia she could, including a commemorative teacup and a figurine of Kate.
“A PRINCESS!” Sarah said.
Her sister was asked if she was equally excited by the prospect of seeing the royals.
“I was until my toes were freezing,” Mary replied.
Just after 7 p.m., a limo appeared and Sarah peered inside to see the royals right there before her on Flatbush Avenue. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge waved, and Sarah of Brooklyn waved back with a manifest excitement that constituted a kind of red carpet after all.
“Screaming,” Sarah’s mother later reported.
As Sarah and her sister and mother headed for the warmth of home, the demonstration continued. Only one of the crowd-control barriers was deployed, to close off a sidewalk as the royals arrived. The cops showed great restraint through the night, as they had on the previous nights, but you had to worry they might also begin showing great restraint in continuing to make Brooklyn remarkably safe.
Those who enjoy this security include not only Sarah and her family but the considerable number of protesters who grew up outside the city and have now settled in Brooklyn with no apparent thought that doing so was only possible because the NYPD had so dramatically reduced crime.
A 33-year-old woman named Sarah Wellington held a black and white sign reading “We Can’t Take It Any More” on one side and “The Whole System Is Guilty as Hell” on the other. She said she was originally from New Jersey but now resides in Brooklyn.
“I love Brooklyn,” she said. “It’s awesome! It’s great!”
And her native state?
“It’s New Jersey,” she said. “It’s what you would imagine.”
By the early morning, Wellington and the other protesters had dispersed and gone home through streets and subway lines that would have been considerably more dangerous were it not for the very cops they had been vilifying as a group.
But Brooklyn was still Brooklyn, and at 1:45 a.m. a dispatcher could be heard saying on the police radio, “Shots fired by an MOS.”
An MOS is a member of the service, which is to say a cop. And on hearing that, you had to wonder if there was going to be another NYPD controversy that would trigger even more distrust in communities of color and further dispirit the cops. The ultimate result would be a more dangerous Brooklyn, most distressingly for kids such as Sarah and Mary.
The address accompanying the radio call gave cause for greater concern, for 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn is the world headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. And there have been tensions in the past between the Hasidic community and the black community that share the same neighborhood two precincts over from the Barclays Center.
As it happened, there were not shots fired, only a single shot. The incident still might have sparked trouble because that lone bullet proved fatal for a man who was black.
But there proved to be a cellphone video of the entire incident, shot in the same vertical format as the one that recorded Eric Garner pleading, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” after a cop placed him in at least an approximation of a chokehold.
This latest video shows 49-year-old Calvin Peters brandishing the bloody knife he had just used to stab a 22-year-old Israeli rabbinical student named Levi Rosenblatt while he studied in the synagogue’s 24-hour prayer room.
The video did not catch the start of the incident, and some disagreement remains as to whether the man shouted, “I want to kill a Jew!”
The video does record Peters asking a temple member, “You want me to kill you? You want me to kill you? Yes or no? One answer.”
“No,” the temple member says.
Peters goes on to say, “What you looking at? You want me to kill you?”
A uniformed cop, 25-year-old Police Officer Timothy Donohue, arrives. He has been summoned from the command post the NYPD has maintained for a decade just up the street.
“Drop the knife,” the cop orders Peters.
“You going to shoot me?” Peters asks.
Anybody who assumes that Hasids are racists should note what the temple members then said to the cop regarding this black man with a knife who had just stabbed one of their own and threatened to kill them.
“No, no, no! Don’t shoot!”
The cop himself clearly hopes to end this with nobody else getting hurt.
“Drop the knife,” he orders. “Drop the knife!”
“No… I won’t drop the knife,” Peters says. “What for?”
“Drop the knife,” the cop says.
“I’m asking you, you shot good?” Peter inquires, apparently inquiring if the cop is a good shot.
Peters then asks, “You want me to kill somebody here? Yes or no?”
Peters again asks, “You going to shoot me?”
The cop says, “If you don’t drop the knife, I will.”
The cop then says, “Put the knife on the table right there.”
Peters complies, placing the knife on a small table.
The cop orders him, “Step away over here. Hands up. Put your f------ hands up! Step over there.”
Peters again complies, stepping aside and raising both hands. The cop reholsters his gun, and it seems to have ended with no further bloodshed as he moves to retrieve the knife.
But in the next instant, Peters is stepping back to the table and snatching up the knife.
“Whoa! Stay away from that!” the cop says. “Drop the knife.”
The cop draws his gun again.
“Stand the f--- away from the knife right now, man,” the cop says.
A second uniformed cop, 29-year-old Police Officer Roberto Pagan, has arrived. He joins Donohue in flanking the man as he disappears behind a partition and from camera view. A surveillance video shows Peters advancing on Pagan, who then backs up. Peters keeps advancing with the knife and is only about 4 feet away when Pagan fires a single shot into Peters’ center mass.
Peters is so close to Pagan that his head brushes the cop as he collapses and falls onto the floor, sprawling back into view in the cellphone video.
“Drop the f------- knife! Drop the knife!…Drop it,” one of the cops keeps saying, then, “Don’t move! Don’t f------- move! Don’t move!”
The cop commands, “Put your hands out! Put your f------ hands out!”
The ratcheting of handcuffs can be heard. And then the voice of a dispatcher crackles over the radio with those alarming words.
“Shots fired by an MOS.”
The dispatcher adds, “Is that correct? All units accounted for?”
“All units accounted for, central,” a cop says. “No MOS was hurt. We have one male perp down.”
A cop inquires, “What’s the ETA for the bus?”
He was asking when the ambulance was expected to arrive. Paramedics appeared moments later and set to work on Peters, but he later died at the hospital. His family described him as being bipolar and having long suffered from mental troubles. The family said they were thankful he did not have a gun.
That was all wrapping up as Sarah DeSouza rose to begin another day, and we should all be thankful that the shooting did not seem likely to increase tensions.
Before Sarah was born, a cop named Donald Rios was shot around the corner from the school she now attends. That shooting and so many other acts of violence were in the bad old days she has never known.
The new days in which Sarah now begins her life may not be perfect, but they are indisputably better. That is thanks in considerable part to the cops, no matter what else is said about a few of them.
Were it not for them, nobody would have even built the brand new arena where Sarah saw a PRINCESS!